Tuesday, September 29, 2020

New Recipe: Secondary Triad Seasoned with Garlic

 

9/24/20 Caran d'Ache Luminance colored pencils in Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook

Secondary triad plus yellow.
Last winter I made a series of still life studies to explore primary triads, usually with apples and pears. I’m already thinking about what to study this fall and winter, and how. Observing still lives others have been doing, I was thinking about how challenging it is to develop shadow hues on light-colored (especially white) objects. I enjoyed using the garlic and the lemon in my Boku-Undo ink studies, but I needed a third object. An egg was my first choice, but then I’d have to remember to put it back in the fridge after each sketch. I dug through a sack of tiny yellow potatoes and pulled out the one with the weirdest shape. All three should last for a few still lives!

In addition to light-colored shadows, I’ve also been thinking about secondary triads – my favorite palette around the house but one I don’t get to use much in sketches (except in Italy). Unlike primary triads, the secondaries aren’t as much fun to mix, but some interesting grays and browns might be discovered – perfect for all those shadows. So light-colored objects and the secondary triad will be my study objectives for the bad-weather months.

For this sketch, I tossed in another wild card – a piece of green paper underneath instead of my usual white. It’s always fun to catch the tiny glimpses of reflected color.

As for my home decor. . . 

Fiestaware in Poppy, Mulberry and Lemongrass


Monday, September 28, 2020

Ambidexterity


I filled the last page of this red notebook – 63 consecutive days of sketches made with my right hand. (I think it’s the only sketchbook I’ve ever filled exclusively with one theme!) I thoroughly enjoyed giving my non-dominant hand a solid workout – much more than I thought I would. The first couple weeks were rocky: The drawings took much longer, and it felt so awkward and unnatural even to hold pencils, let alone draw with them. Yet it took much less time than I expected for my right hand to catch up to my left in sketching time and even skill. That’s when I learned that drawing skills are much less dependent on hand strength, agility and coordination than I realized; the brain is doing almost all the heavy lifting.

After those first couple weeks, I began enjoying the daily practice because I could feel my right hand gaining strength and coordination incrementally but reliably. As I’ve been learning to draw these past nine years, I have often been disappointed that developing drawing skills is not a straight trajectory of improvement – I continually backslide, improve, backslide again, improve again. Using my right hand, however, did feel like continual improvement in terms of physical ability. It was satisfying that way. 

As for my concurrent handwriting tests, some samples were better than others (see end of post), but I see almost no significant improvement over the course of two months. If I had been practicing my writing daily alongside drawing, my results would likely be different. Taken about weekly, however, these samples indicate that drawing practice does not necessarily improve skills in all areas of hand use. 

That said, I think I have become generally more ambidextrous. I find myself spontaneously picking up a lid or a utensil from the table with my right hand, which is a task I normally would do with m
y left automatically. I still need my left hand for full strength, like opening a jar, but both hands can do tasks that don’t require strength. I feel more balanced now. Most important, I know that if I ever injure my left hand, I could still draw! 

It was a fascinating and rewarding experience – and now I’m glad it’s done. It’s good to have my left hand back again. And my right will go back to modeling, which my left has learned is no easy job, either!








Ahh, left hand -- how I've missed you!






Sunday, September 27, 2020

September’s Small Stories


9/7/20 Early morning on Labor Day. No traffic in sight, so I
stood in the middle of the street to sketch.
The weather is changing. The first week of September was beautiful, and then the smoke blew in, ruining what were probably otherwise warm, pleasant weeks. Now we’ve had days of rain, which is normal for this time of year, but it’s always bittersweet to see summer end (and despite the pandemic, it was a beautiful one in which I rediscovered my own neighborhood).

For both fitness and mental health, I have committed to continue walking, rain or shine, as long as it’s not a ridiculous downpour. If there’s one thing I know as a Seattle native, it’s that the precipitation generally referred to as “rain” is usually just a drizzle or shower around here. A hooded slicker was made for that. And to keep myself motivated, the walk/sketch fitness program I put myself on last winter still works: Every walk is rewarded with a sketch.

9/1/20 More utility pole work.

9/23/20 Kendo class at Maple Leaf Park. My waterproof
Field Notes Expedition holds up in any kind of weather!

Its officially autumn . . .

. . . I've switched from my hot pink summer Rickshaw
bag, which repels drizzle . . .

. . . to my waterproof red Rickshaw,
which can take anything Seattle
clouds can dish out! Bring it on!


Saturday, September 26, 2020

Inverted

9/22/20 Maple Leaf neighborhood

Here’s a type of architecture uncommon in Maple Leaf (this may be the only example I’ve seen on my daily walks). I wonder what keeps rain from collecting in the “valley” and eventually leaking through the roof? The style doesn’t appeal to me much esthetically, especially in this neighborhood of traditional Tudors and Craftsman homes, but it’s fun to draw from this angle.

I mentioned last month that I was disappointed not to be able to easily continue the Maple Leaf architecture series that I had started a couple of summers ago. Although I don’t feel comfortable now making leisurely portraits of houses from the sidewalk as I used to, this small 10-minute sketch was easy to do and almost as fun. In some ways, it’s a better challenge: How much can I capture with one pencil and a few lines? 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Early Leaf Peeping

9/21/20 Northgate strip mall

My annual leaf-peeping tour has begun! The smoky air had kept me from walking in the neighborhood or even driving around much for nearly two weeks. When it finally cleared, I was surprised to find that many trees I see regularly had begun turning. Before the predicted rain settled in for the week, I thought I’d go see what else had turned. 

My first stop was the Greenwood neighborhood and my favorite traffic circle maples, which, two years ago, were already showing off color by mid-September. They were hardly showing any this week. (I must have missed them completely last year. . . I can’t find a sketch of them.) 

I decided to head up to Northgate instead, which has many lovely maples on the sidewalks and arterial divides, but they were all still mostly green. Then I remembered that they tend to turn much later in the season. A bit of color caught my eye in a strip mall parking lot, which I typically avoid as a sketch location – all those boring, boxy buildings and rows of cars that drive away as soon as I start sketching them! But as my friend Roy DeLeon has taught by example time and time again, it is the job of the sketcher, not the location, to make the sketch interesting. 

The season is young. I’m looking forward to mobile-studio sketching of fall color in the coming weeks. Since it’s something I do every year, not because of the pandemic, it will feel very normal. It’s important to seek normalcy wherever we can find it.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

In Praise of Clouds and Rain

 

9/19/20 Maple Leaf neighborhood

After last Friday’s rain finally washed the smoke away, we woke Saturday to ordinary clouds and overcast. By afternoon, I could see a blur of rain on the horizon, but from where I stood on our upstairs deck, some blue and sunshine were still visible between clouds. I could see UW Tower two-and-a-half miles away. For the 10 days prior, I couldn’t see more than a few blocks.

Shortly after I made this sketch, the sky opened up and poured harder than it had in months. I never thought I could be so happy to see rain.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Rise Up


If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I don’t generally use it as my political platform (and I admit I’ve been disappointed when artists I follow for their art begin sharing more political opinions than art). Although I have more recently expressed my views occasionally without being strident or explicit (OK, I was a bit explicit in this post), I have always seen my blog as a place to share and think about art – not political views. 

I still believe that. The closer we get to November, however, the more I realize that I can’t compartmentalize myself about something as important as the upcoming presidential election, which will be the most critical in my life so far. My beliefs and values are who I am, just like my sketches are. 

A few days ago, I found out about Rise Up, Show Up, Unite – a group of American artists who have united in support of Biden and Harris. I joined by putting together this image to post on social media, and I’m stating my view explicitly here: I’m voting for Biden and Harris because I want my country to have a leader again – one with integrity, decency and values I share. I want to be proud to be an American again.
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